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'Mediterranean Fresh' presents versatile, colorful and delish menu choices

 

Last updated 2/26/2009 at Noon



Wherever you are midwinter has its seasonal challenges. It’s not yet spring and there are winter-like conditions and foods linger. What’s a cook to do?

Joyce Goldstein’s “Mediterranean Fresh” cookbook (W.W. Norton & Company publishers) has 110 answers in one-plate salad meals. Plus, she offers 30 mix-n-match salad dressings. It’s enough to set you straight for almost four months and, I do not believe, become even marginally bored.

In fact, her “back cover tributes” from Alice Water, Judy Rogers, Michael Roman, Paula Wolfert and others give Goldstein the unofficial “queen of salads” status… one could hardly pray for more enthusiastic professional recommendations. These are people not easily impressed. Goldstein has won their unbounded admiration.

In reviewing Goldstein’s book I was especially pleased by her refreshingly simple ideas, techniques and especially her mix-n-match salad and salad dressing combinations. With the latter it would seem that you could avoid redundancy with the flip of a few pages. Recipes selected for this column are those that seem to make the most sense in this in-between season.

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Citrus and avocado is a classic. Notice the nuances given by Goldstein as the salad is combined with her Citrus Dressing. The technique for cutting the grapefruit to yield seedless segments is well written… and it works for oranges as well.

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Citrus Dressing

2 small grapefruit

2 avocados

¾ to 1 cup mixed Citrus Dressing

6 handfuls of assorted mild, sweet leafy greens such as butter, oak leaf or red leaf (scant ½ lb.)

½ lb. crabmeat, shrimp, scallops (optional)

Working with one grapefruit at a time, cut a thin slice off the top and bottom to reveal the flesh. Stand the grapefruit upright and remove the peel in wide strips, cutting downward and following the contour of the fruit. Holding the grapefruit over a bowl, cut along both sides of each segment, releasing the segments from the membrane and allowing them to drop into the bowl. Using a knife tip or wooden pick, pry out any seeds. Squeeze the membrane over another bowl to release the juice. Repeat with the remaining grapefruit. You should have about ½ cup juice.

Cut the avocados in half and remove and discard the pits. With a large spoon, scoop the avocado from the peel. Cut the flesh into ¼-inch slices. Drizzle with ¼ cup Citrus Dressing.

Toss the greens with ¼ cup Citrus Dressing. Distribute among 4 salad plates or arrange on a large platter. Top with avocado slices and grapefruit segments and drizzle with the remaining dressing.

If you are adding crabmeat, toss it with the Citrus Dressing and pile it on top or place it in the center of a circle of avocado slices and grapefruit segments.

If you like you may add cooked shrimp or scallops to this salad. Sprinkle the seafood with salt and pepper. Place ¼ cup Citrus Dressing in a large sauté pan along with the reserved grapefruit juice and bring to a boil. Add the shellfish to the pan and cook, turning once, until they are barely cooked through, about 4 minutes, depending on the size of the shellfish. Remove the pan from the heat and arrange the shellfish on top of the greens, alternating them with the grapefruit and avocado. Drizzle with the remaining Citrus Dressing. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Citrus Dressing

½ cup mild extra virgin

olive oil

Freshly grated zest of

1 orange (about 1 tbsp.)

¼ cup blood orange juice

or regular orange juice

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice,

or more to taste

½ tsp. sugar, if needed

½ tsp. sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Dip a lettuce leaf into the dressing and taste to see if it is tart enough, has enough salt and flavor is balanced. Add more lemon juice or sugar, if needed. Makes l scant cup.

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Cannellini beans offer good nutrition, eye appeal and take kindly to absorbing the vinaigrette just enough to flavor and not so much that the beans become soggy.

White Bean Salad

2 cups cannellini or Great

Northern Beans, soaked overnight

1 tsp. sea salt

1 cup Basic Vinaigrette

(or Oregano Garlic Vinaigrette)

2 small onions, cut in half and

sliced paper-thin

½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼-cup walnuts, toasted

and chopped, optional

3 hard cooked eggs, quartered

3 ripe tomatoes, sliced or

quartered (optional)

Drain the soaked beans and cover them with fresh cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes, adding the salt after 15 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl or a deep platter. Pour most of the vinaigrette over the beans while they are still hot and toss well.

Place the remaining vinaigrette in a bowl with the onions and parsley and macerate (marinate) for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions soften and lose their bite. If using, add walnuts to the onion mixture.

Surround the bean salad with the onion mixture. Arrange the eggs and tomatoes, if using, over and around the beans. Serves 6-8.

Basic Vinaigrette

3 to 4 tbsp. red wine vinegar,

white wine vinegar or

Champagne vinegar

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Optional additions:

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil,

tarragon, mint, chervil or

flat-leaf parsley

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

When making vinaigrette, always start with vinegar and salt, or vinegar, mustard and salt in the mixing bowl and then whisk in the oil. Add the herbs last.

Taste and then re-season with salt and pepper. Test by dripping lettuce leaf into the dressing to check the acid and salt balance.

Oregano Garlic Vinaigrette

3 tbsp. dried oregano

½ cup red wine vinegar

2 to 3 cloves garlic,

very finely minced

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 ¼ cups mild extra

virgin olive oil (fruity if available)

Rub the oregano in your hands to warm it and release its oils. Toast it in a dry skillet over low heat for a minute or two.

Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl. If you have the time, warm the dressing over low heat for a few minutes to intensity the flavors. Makes 1 ¾ cups.

 

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